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Loosing the Bonds of Shame

By Mary Craig

…looking unto Jesus…who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame… Hebrews 12.2

SHAME. It binds us by the intensity of its destructive power exerted in our lives. It rules us like an addiction, causing us to cover it with arrogance, masks of respectability, lies, and deceit. Proverbs 11.2 states: When pride comes, then comes shame; but with the humble is wisdom.

Shame came upon humanity with Adam's sin. Adam and Eve were both naked and not ashamed (Genesis 2.25). Then, with guidance from the serpent, looking for more birthed dissatisfaction with themselves in their created state. Wanting to be more, failing to accept essential limitations, Adam and Eve breached the boundaries of the covenant with their Creator. Their actions at that point forever shattered a relationship of naked truth and the honesty of walking humbly with their God. Their actions plunged themselves and their posterity into an estate of sin and misery. The covering of shame, the consequence of true guilt, stripped their souls of inherent dignity and marred their being. Secrecy and hiding resulted. (Genesis 3.7-10)

Shame comes as we do evil in the sight of God. For shame has devoured the labor of our fathers from our youth—their flocks and their herds, their sons and their daughters. We lie down in our shame, and our reproach covers us. For we have sinned against the Lord our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even to this day, and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God. (Jeremiah 3.24, 25) Shame covers us.

We enter this world flawed, depraved, having hearts bent toward evil. Thus shame covers the very core of our being, infusing its poison into our souls, carrying us ever into darkness, wickedness, lawlessness, and falsehood. In his book, Shame: The Power of Caring, Gershen Kaufman provides us with the results of shame as seen by secular professionals.

Shame is the affect which is the source of many complex and disturbing
inner states: depression, alienation, self-doubt, isolating loneliness,
paranoid and schizoid phenomena, compulsive disorders, splitting of
the self, perfectionism, a deep sense of inferiority, inadequacy or
failure, the so-called borderline conditions and disorders of narcissism.

It is difficult to accept the reality of who we are. We want to be more powerful, more than human, more in control. As the whole world lies under the sway of the evil one, we enter into the system of the world as we seek "more" through violence, wealth, and knowledge. We exploit, lie, cheat, steal, murder, deceive, feign humility and goodness, all to get "more." In accepting the lies of that "other word" from Satan, in refusing right relationship with our Creator, in exalting ourselves, in asserting our wills against the will of God, we exercise the false beliefs, the loyalty to lies, that result in hopelessness, poverty, and ultimate destruction.

Enter Jesus Christ.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world through Him might be saved…This is the condem-
nation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness
rather than light, because their deeds were evil…(
John 3.16-19)

Jesus Christ living in relationship with His Father demonstrates the way, the truth, and the life. Walking in the vulnerability of needing but having a heavenly Father, living in the security and trust of an interpersonal bond with His Father as Primary Caretaker, Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. He did not do things "his way." He lived with a strong sense of "we." He said, "I and My Father are one." (John 10.30) About His Father's business, He lived and walked and worked the works of the One who sent Him in the mirroring eyes of His Source and Sustainer. His Father honored Him (John 8.54), and He honored His Father (John 8.49).

Jesus was committed to reality. His judgments were not made on appearances. He knew what was in the hearts of men, their thoughts, and what proceeded from the heart of man. He knew Himself, His purpose in the Incarnation, His mission, and the necessity of finishing and living out His destiny.

Then came the shame, as prophesied. I gave My back to those who struck Me, and My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard; I did not hide My face from shame and spitting. (Isaiah 50.6) With the promise of the Father before Him, with His inheritance at stake, with the plan for the redemption of the elect moving to the crisis, the crux of the cross, Jesus came to that place, the place of the skull, and to that experience we call abandonment, alienation, separation.

Abandonment causes the internalization of shame as mirroring by the primary caretaker is lost. To know who we are, we need, as it were, reflective mirrors. We become what we behold. For a healthy identity, we need a parent figure, and especially a father figure, that can impart the confidence, the continuity, the sameness that comes from the eyes of another seeing us as we see ourselves. With disparity, the weaker will come to believe the judgment of the greater.

As Jesus took on the sins of the world in our place and stead, He was forsaken by the Father. What came in that experience? Poverty of supply? Vulnerability to abuse? Loss of trust? A shattering of self in the wake of alienation? The intense despair of isolation? And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" which is translated, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Mark 15.34)

We say to ourselves: I am a mistake. No one could possibly love or accept me as I am. Therefore, I need something outside to make myself acceptable and lovable. Therefore, I am driven to meet this need to remove somehow in my own efforts the covering of shame incurred by guilt. I feel ashamed. I am guilt-ridden.

Deep down in the inner core, were we honest, we would admit that God only is good, that our guilt comes as we break God's laws and abandon His value system for that of another, that the consequence of actions flowing from a heart bent toward evil since "the fall" brings upon us the covering of shame because it is the reality of the Word of God. Nevertheless, the Word of God is truth with the power to expose error and set us free.

I believe shame can be overcome by considering and employing the following strategy.

    Strategy for Overcoming Shame
  1. Name it for what it is.
  2. Refuse to be the victim of shame, satan, and separation from God.
  3. Look at yourself in the eyes of God as revealed in His Word.
  4. Allow the truth of God's Word and the Holy Spirit to reveal who He is really and who you are really.
  5. Be willing to come out of hiding, move from the miseries of your sins, iniquities, and transgressions, and embrace the pain of aligning with what the Word says.
  6. Take courage in confessing imperfection, corruption, sin, rebellion, lawlessness, and falling short of the glory of God.
  7. Take life less somberly and more seriously.
  8. Lighten the load of guilt by receiving the revelation of the atonement for sin provided by and through the Suffering Servant Jesus Christ. (Isaiah 53)
  9. Repent (change your mind), receive Jesus Christ as Sovereign Savior, and receive the gift of eternal life. (Ephesians 2)
  10. Receive the forgiveness of sins, removal of alienation, cancellation of debt and liability, deliverance from the bondage of shame and guilt. (Colossians 1, 2)
  11. Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Luke 11, Acts 1.8)
  12. Allow the Holy Spirit to apply the Blood of Jesus and to cleanse your evil conscience (Hebrews 9.14, Hebrews 10.22, 1 John 1.9)
  13. In entering the Kingdom of God, purpose to live in vital spiritual union with the Godhead, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
  14. Connect with God in covenant, with His love, His goodness, His mercy, His truth, His light, His peace, His life, His grace.
  15. Love as you are loved: openly, graciously, honestly, freely, eternally, without harm, without limit, without exploitation, without shame.
  16. Believe God, behold God, become all that God wants you to be.

How to be free of shame

Biblical Meaning of Shame

Shame is an inward experience, a response, a feeling with an outward effect. The word we translate "shame" comes from the Greek word, entropo. Entropo means to turn about. It is a word which can actually mean both respect and shame.

This word entropo carries with it the idea of turning one in upon himself so as to produce a feeling of shame. Shame can be a wholesome feeling which produces a change of conduct. Sometimes, shame is appropriate.

So we see that when we are confronted or admonished with truth and feel shame appropriately, it will lead to repentance and cleansing.

In the light of truth and moral correctness, we perceive our failings, feel shame coming out of true guilt. This is designed to lead us to repent, to change our conduct.

In Matthew 21.37…they will respect my son…we see this word entropo used to mean respect or reverence. In the face of holiness, we bow in respect. We humble ourselves, seeing again how we fall short of the glory of God, of God's perfection.

When we are "ashamed," we bring dishonor upon ourselves. We say, "Oh, I am so ashamed of myself." A feeling of shame arises from failure. A feeling of shame can be coupled with a feeling of fear so as to prevent action. Luke 16.3

Other words are similar…humiliation (Is. 61.7), disgrace, reproach. Isaiah 54.4, regret Rom 6.21, feeling guilty, falling into disfavor, experiencing the pain of failure.

Some action or attitude brings about feelings of shame. Romans 6.21. Impurity and lawlessness cause us to feel shame. We break a rule. We break the Law of God. We feel shame. In Psalm 129.5 those who hate Zion are put to shame. The attitude of hatred, of active prejudice brought shame. In Numbers 12.14 a father spits in a girl's face. She must bear her shame for 7 days. What happened here?

In Proverbs 12.4 a wife shames her husband as rottenness in the bones when she commits immorality.

When shame enters the picture, the reaction is to hide. 2 Cor. 4.2. This has been going on since the Garden. Things are hidden out of shame instead of renounced. We act this way because we really don't believe that God is good and ready to forgive. We think we are going to be punished and we get afraid. 1 John tells us all about it.

What results is that we are unable to separate criticism from rejection. 1 Cor. 4.14. When God admonishes us, it is not to do us evil, but to do us good, to cause us to amend our ways so that He can bless us or so that we can be healed. The trouble is, we have a difficult time separating types of shame.

  • 1 Cor. 6.5 Here Paul sets out to shame, but his eye is to restore
  • 1 Peter 4.16 Here we are not to be ashamed of Christian suffering
  • Romans 1.16 Here we are not to be ashamed of the gospel.

God's answer to shame

The opposite of shame is GLORY 2 Thes 1.12, 2.14 and FAVOR Luke 4.18,19

Shame is turned into rejoicing. Isaiah 65.13. The hungry eat, the thirsty drink, the ones with shame rejoice. In Zeph 3.19 God turns shame into praise and renown.

Christ bore your shame in 3 ways

  1. He bore the inherent shame of the cross itself. Heb 12.2. He endured the cross, despising the shame. 1 Cor. 1.18 The cross was foolishness.
  2. Christ bore the curse, the total humiliation. Dt. 28; Gal. 3.13
  3. Christ died outside the camp, rejected, alienated, suffering the shame of abandonment from His Father.

Are you seeing that shame is a falling from grace, as it were? A falling from favor? A falling short of the glory of God? Jesus became sin for us that we through His shame might receive the favor, the glory of God.

Jesus Christ is not ashamed to be our brother Heb 2.11. God is not ashamed to be our Father. Heb 11.16. God will not put to shame those who wait for Him with hope Is 49.23. God offers us a way to remove shame by removing guilt and liability that comes as a result of breaking the law of God.

Name it for what it is: shame. You are feeling shame because you have done something that has put you in a position of guilt. You broke someone's rule. You broke the law. You did something "bad." You thought something out of order with right attitudes. Maybe your shame is correct and maybe you feel ashamed because you never questioned the rules. Maybe the shame and guilt is false.

Either way the strategy is the same for removing shame and guilt:

Name it. Face it. Confess to God how you feel and what you did that was so wrong either in your eyes or in anther's eyes or in God's eyes. Know that God is love. God is good. God doesn't harm. God has no evil thoughts toward you. God only wants your good and to bless you, to favor you. Picture Jesus bearing your shame. He went to the humiliation of the cross taking the curse outside the camp. He took your reproach, the rejection of God….Ask that the Blood of Jesus was away all shame. If you think you have been the victim of evil, where evil was called good, where you were judged bad under a pretense of love that threw you into confusion about right and wrong, then you may consider counseling by a Christian professional to help you sort everything out.

© 2000 Mary Craig Ministries, Inc.

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